Councilor seeks zone change for Country Mart

WESTFIELD – A ward councilor is requesting a zone change to bring a piece of property into compliance with its current use.
Ward 5 Councilor Richard E. Onofrey submitted a motion Thursday, which was referred to the Zoning, Planning & Development Committee, to change the zoning designation for Country Mart at 397 Little River Road. That property is currently a split zone. Part of the property is zoned as Residence A, while the remainder is zoned Rural Residential. Onofrey requested the City Council to support changing the designation to Commercial A.
“I was in there and they asked me to sponsor this motion to make it a business zone,” Onofrey said. “It’s been a business for as long as I can remember.  It’s the old Carmel Farms stand.”
The original stand was constructed in 1950. The 3,220-square-foot structure, sited on 1.2 acres of land, has been expanded and modified several times. The business was purchased in December of 2010 by the current owners Tariq and Rizwana Mahmoud.
Onofrey said the zone change petition will require a public hearing in both the City Council and the Planning Board which will make a recommendation to the council on Onofrey’s request.
Traditionally the zone change issue would have also been referred to the council’s Legislative & Ordinance Committee, as well as the ZP&D Committee, but the L&O Chairman, Ward 1 Councilor Christopher Keefe, said Thursday that he would prefer to simplify that process and refer all zoning issued to just the ZP&D committee.
The council has discussed referring motions to just one committee for more than a year to streamline legislative review.
Several motions have not been acted upon because they were referred to several committees and held up in one of those committees.
Many motions, especially those requiring public hearings are on a rigid timeline, with only 90 days to bring them back onto the City Council floor for action.
If that 9- day window expires, the issue has to be brought back out as a new motion and the entire process, including the public hearing, repeated.
The council failed to act twice on Keefe’s motion to adopt an ordinance controlling the transportation and storage of explosives before finally approving the ordinance on Keefe’s third motion, taking nearly a year and a half before adopting the motion, as well as requiring three public hearing and extensive committee time.

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